I recently came across an interesting post by Vince Koehler of Sales Benchmark Index, a Georgia-based sales and marketing consultancy focused on sales effectiveness. I recommend subscribing to their blog. The topic of Marketing automation is growing in popularity because of the increased pressure on marketers to show Marketing ROI. Marketing has become more complex with the need for faster sales velocity, better insight into campaigns, and the flexibility to adjust marketing budgets on the fly.
I know, why is a PR Pro like myself writing about marketing automation? In a former life, I did a stint as a marketing operations manager. But more importantly, PR and all marketing activities must foster engagement with identifiable communities and generate leads. I take a holistic viewpoint in my PR practice and recognize the need for process integration and metrics. We must always define and measure success.
In Koehler’s post: How Should CMO’s Evaluate Marketing Automation Vendors, he touches upon the importance of research found in third party studies such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave. There are two excellent visual depictions of the marketing automation landscape from each research consultancy, covering top software automation vendors such as Marketo, Oracle (Eloqua), and Silverpop, to name but a few.
In addition to Koehler’s many good tips and free downloadable checklists from his organization, I recommend a number of key steps in the vendor evaluation process:
- Define objectives and metrics for each marketing function. Understand all roles and responsibilities and how they interrelate in getting work done.
- Map this out in a process flow diagram, and go a step further by building a wishlist for your marketing automation software capabilities. Depict all integration points for information resources, including CRM software (e.g. Salesforce.com); share your requirements with prospective marketing automation vendors during your initial briefing.
- Have sales involved early on in the selection process, particularly the inside sales or demand gen team. It’s important to establish marketing and sales alignment at the onset, which increases the success of the final outcome.
- It’s demo time for each prospective vendor. I recommend avoiding costly customization whenever possible and look at the standard software features being offered by each supplier for comparison purposes.
- Don’t forget to look at all the reporting capabilities and the insights that can be gained for improving marketing across the organization.
- Once a vendor shortlist has been established, ask each one for a business case: understand how each marketing automation solution can save your company money and increase revenues.
- Look for a recommended and approved software automation partner to help in the implementation and back-end system integration process, if required.
Marketing automation should give an organization not only better insight into customers and segments, but consistent branding and messaging, improved lead nurturing, and the ability to do more with fewer resources. You can also more easily connect content with prospect behavior and action: lead automation is an essential component of the marketing automation ecosystem. Remember as a marketer, get to know your inside sales team!
What’s Your Plan B
Ensure you have a plan B in place because there is always the risk that the budget gets cut. We have all seen that before. It’s important to identify the critical processes of your marketing functions. For instance, if trade shows and events are identified core marketing activities, keep an event management software company in mind; I have recommended Cvent in the past.
If the creative group’s resources are being stretched, a digital asset management solution from a provider such as Third Light may come to the rescue.
Never be discouraged: even with a scaled back approach for marketing automation systems, the right mindset and culture could be blossoming for greater adoption in the future. Remember to measure everything and what matters most to your business’ goals and objectives. Keep moving the needle forward and demonstrating Marketing ROI. Your marketing budget and overall company’s success is dependent on it.